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  1. Member
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    #1

    could / be able to

    Hello. Please assume that some teachers from all over Japan were supposed to gather in Tokyo to hold a meeting yesterday, but it was impossible due to the bad weather, which means the airplanes to Tokyo couldn't fly.
    If I have to describe this situation using the passive voice (with "the meeting" as the subject)...

    1. The meeting could not be held.
    2. The meeting was not be able to be held.

    Could anyone tell me if they are both correct?

    With regard to "could" and "be able to" when expressing the past, I understand the following:
    Native speakers use "could" for general ability.
    - My granma could speak 4 languages.
    But if you are talking about what happened in a particular situation, you use was/were able to... but NOT could.
    - The fire spread through the building quickly but everybody was able to escape.

    But if it's negative, you can use "couldn't" for general ability and also for a particular situation.
    - My granma could not swim.
    - The fire spread through the building quickly and everybody could not escape.

    But I can't find a grammar book or website that explains about a negative sentence in the passive voice.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: could / be able to

    The subject of a passive sentence generally cannnot show the ability to have something done to them. Neither affirmative nor negative constuctions with 'be able to' followed by a passive infinitive are natural.

    Incidentally, "The fire spread through the building quickly and everybody could not escape" is not natural. We would say either "... not everybody could/was able to escape" or "... nobody could/was able to escape", depending on the situation.

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    #3

    Re: could / be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    The subject of a passive sentence generally cannnot show the ability to have something done to them. Neither affirmative nor negative constuctions with 'be able to' followed by a passive infinitive are natural.
    Does that mean 1 is incorrect and 2 is correct?



    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    Incidentally, "The fire spread through the building quickly and everybody could not escape" is not natural. We would say either "... not everybody could/was able to escape" or "... nobody could/was able to escape", depending on the situation.
    Thank you for pointing that out!

  4. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: could / be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by pinkie9 View Post
    Does that mean 1 is incorrect and 2 is correct?



    [SIZE=2]
    Thank you for pointing that out!
    1 is correct, 2 is incorrect.

  5. Member
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    #5

    Re: could / be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    1 is correct, 2 is incorrect.
    Thank you so much!

    But I'm still having difficulty understanding this.
    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    The subject of a passive sentence generally cannnot show the ability to have something done to them. Neither affirmative nor negative constuctions with 'be able to' followed by a passive infinitive are natural.
    Could anyone give me examples please?

  6. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: could / be able to

    Quote Originally Posted by pinkie9 View Post
    But I'm still having difficulty understanding this.

    Could anyone give me examples please?
    We were (not) able to hold the meeting.
    The meeting was (not) able to be held.

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